UAE firms seize new delivery opportunities amidst coronavirus crisis


Contactless transactions are fast becoming the norm as virus continues to spread

Amidst widespread fears over coronavirus, more and more people are staying home and away from crowded places like supermarkets and restaurants. And when they do step outside their door, they keep a safe distance from each other to avoid physical contact.

It is believed that the deadly virus, which has now infected nearly 200,000 individuals, is spread between people in proximity to each other. Companies in the UAE and around the world are jumping on the social distancing trend to keep the sales coming while ensuring public safety. Many of them have now rolled out contactless delivery schemes.

First introduced by companies like Starbucks, McDonald’s and KFC in China, where the illness started, contact-free delivery means that the seller leaves an order, such as food, groceries or merchandise, at the customer’s doorstep. The idea is to ensure that the end-consumer and the delivery staff don’t get infected or pass on the virus.

On Tuesday, the delivery app Talabat said it has introduced a zero-contact delivery service to its customers in the UAE. Its competitors, Uber Eats and Zomato, have also reportedly hopped on the bandwagon, and soon, hundreds of other businesses will very likely be advocating contact-free customer transactions. Meanwhile, Emirates Post started contactless deliveries of postal items on Tuesday too.

Keeping customers at ease

By offering a contact-free delivery service, businesses can put customers’ minds at ease and encourage consumer spending at the same time.

“We believe more and more businesses will adopt this trend, and if you look at delivery companies in Asia, not just food [delivery], this is where the current trend originated,” Tomas Rodriguez, CEO of Talabat, told Zawya.

In Talabat’s delivery scheme, customers are encouraged to pay for their orders online. Once the delivery reaches the customer’s location, the rider rings the doorbell and places the item by the door. The delivery guy will then practice social distancing, making sure the order is received before departing on their next delivery.

“Offering contactless delivery is just one of the ways we can put our customers’ minds at ease. Our riders also make sure that they are following the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines when it comes to sanitation. We are also constantly striving to develop new and innovative ways to ensure safety,” Rodriguez added.

Outside the UAE, brands like Domino’s, Yum! Brands, Instacart and Postmates have likewise introduced the service.

Rise in e-commerce

 Fears over the coronavirus have given rise to more people turning to e-commerce to make their purchases. Early this month, when the number of coronavirus cases escalated, big-box retailers and online platforms in the UAE noticed a surge in demand, with sales jumping by as much as 100 percent.

The UAE market accounts for one of the biggest online spends in the region, with an e-commerce penetration rate of 4.2 percent, according to a white paper published by Visa in June 2019. Online sales in the UAE are estimated to grow by an average of 23 percent annually between 2018 and 2023.

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